There’s a Snake in My Boot
It’s summer. It’s warm. It’s sunny. The river is shallow along its bank, so why not pull over, roll up my pant legs, shed my shoes and dip my toes in the water I have been paralleling most of the morning? Jet skis zoom and inner tubes float in the middle of the water where the depth and flow may be more ideal for a fun and active afternoon, but I plan to drive for several hours, so just a quick toe in the water douses my appetite to wet my feet. River access from a roadside park will do, so I walk barefoot over the smooth, uneven rocks to the water’s edge, and cautiously stroll into the Snake River, far upstream from its emptying point into the ocean to the west. And as I stare at my feet in the water, this one small step doesn’t represent any of the highlights of this vacation; nonetheless I want to remember the moment. But even more I want to get back into the car and on my way.
Through the clear water, the gently worn stones and the undisturbed sand of the river bed allow me to see my feet, but the wind’s slight rippling on the surface makes them appear even larger than their already considerable length. These big boots at the end of my legs make me giggle when I realize the clever quote from my favorite rootin’-tootin’ cowboy. I pull my camera out of my pocket and capture my over-sized feet and the bright reflection off the water’s surface from the midday sun and post a picture on the web with the remark, “My boots are in the Snake.”
Following the Water
Where the Snake accepts the Clearwater River’s water, the summer flow, probably more tame than the springtime snowmelt rush, marks a turning point in the geography and a turning point of the road. From here, I spend hours following the river inward and upstream, and along each stretch, I see weekend enthusiasts splashing and sunning. I worry that my short stint in the water does not do the climate and the scenery justice. I stop frequently to capture the tranquil images of the flowing waterway, but I keep my feet cozily inside my footwear. I choose to enjoy the water aesthetically.
The water merges from the Lochsa River and I follow it through the Bitterroot Mountains awing at the beauty in both the sunlight and the shadows, squinting against the sun’s blinding reflection off the water and marveling in the deep, cool colors its absence creates in the narrow valleys between the rising mountain faces. With each bend in the rivers and my continued driving upstream, the population playing in the summer sun and warm waters thins, but the depth and breadth to which the images along these three rivers snaking through the mountains deepen their impression upon me magnifies. Even with only a few small steps in the water, I drench myself in the rivers of Idaho.